Prominent New York Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Urges Family Members to Watch for Signs of Bedsores

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Nursing homes can not be fully trusted to properly care for residents. Family members of nursing home residents should regularly check their loved ones bodies for signs of abuse, in particular for the warning signs of bedsores. And, if they see a problem, the situation should be reported to senior nursing home staff immediately. If nothing is done to help the resident, family members should contact a lawyer who specializes in nursing home abuse.

The photograph is all the testimony a family might need to prove a case of abuse

Tragedies, like the recent highly-publicized death of an elderly Bronx woman at Sutton Park Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, underscore the need for family members of nursing home residents to keep a watchful eye on the care their loved one is getting, and to follow four important steps before choosing a nursing home, or other long-term care facility, advises Michael Glass, a New York nursing home abuse lawyer and partner in the Long Island law firm of Rappaport, Glass, Greene & Levine, LLC.

"If a family has someone in a nursing home," Glass said, "it is very important to have a family member perform body checks on the resident, no matter how reputable the nursing home might be."

Glass recommends that family members regularly check their loved one for early signs of bedsores, particularly on the bottom of the feet and back.

"If you find redness, or blistering," he said, "families should demand a wound care consultation. "Most of the time bed sores are caused by staff inattention, and their failure to turn and position a resident who can't roll over, or get out of bed, by themselves."

One lesser-known reason why bedsores can be so dangerous and sometimes hard to treat is because the resident is malnourished and is not receiving proper nutrition.

"This happens in a lot of nursing homes," Glass said. "Harried staff remove meal trays even if the resident hasn't eaten. Especially vulnerable to bedsores that don't heal are patients who have circulatory problems, or diseases like advance stage diabetes and cancer."

In situations where the resident does develop a bedsore, Glass advises that intervention should be started immediately, such as the use of special medications, protective devices and pressure-relieving mattresses.

Glass also advises family members to take photographs of the resident's wound either with the camera in their cell phone, or with some other device. He said having photographs are especially useful in situations where legal intervention may be required.

"The photograph is all the testimony a family might need to prove a case of abuse," he said.

Glass, who has represented dozens of victims of nursing home abuse in his 30-plus years in legal practice, advises families to take the time, and the necessary precautions, when choosing a nursing home for a loved one.

He strongly recommends that family members follow these four important steps:

Step 1: Find nursing homes in your area.

Medicare's Nursing Home Compare website has information to help family members find and compare nursing homes. Visit: http://www.medicare.gov/NHCompare. Family members can search by nursing home name, city, county, state, or ZIP code.

Ask people you trust, like your doctor, family, friends, neighbors, or clergy. If your loved one is already in an acute care hospital, ask the hospital's discharge planner, or social worker, for a list of local nursing homes. They should be able to help you find an available bed.

Step 2: Compare the quality of nursing homes you are considering.

It is important to compare the care that nursing homes give in order to make the best nursing home decision for your loved one and your family. One way to compare nursing homes is to look at the information about nursing home quality at the website referenced earlier: http://www.medicare.gov/NHCompare.

This website has information about nursing homes in the State of New York (and anywhere else in the country) that are certified to participate in Medicare and/or Medicaid.

You can compare the nursing homes you are considering, using the Five Star Quality Rating system. Look at health inspection and fire safety inspection reports, nursing home staffing rates, quality measures and other important information.

Step 3: Visit the nursing homes you are interested in, or have someone visit for you.

Before make a decision about a nursing home, family members, and the resident if he or she is able, visit the nursing homes that interest you whenever possible. A visit gives you the chance to see the residents, staff, and the nursing home setting. It also allows you to ask questions of the nursing home staff, and talk with the residents and their family members.

If you can't visit the nursing home yourself, you may want to get a family member or friend to visit for you. If a family member or friend can't visit for you, you can call for information. However, a
visit gives you a better way to see the quality of care and life of the residents.

Before you visit, consider what is important to you. Issues such as: quality of life; religious and cultural preferences; language (is your loved one's primary language spoken at the nursing home by staff or residents?); security; preventive care (does the nursing home make sure that residents get preventive care to help keep them healthy?); does the nursing home have a screening program for immunizations such as flu and pneumonia?; hospitals (does the nursing home have an arrangement with a nearby hospital for emergencies?); can your doctor care for the resident at that hospital?; resident/family/staff satisfaction (talk to staff, residents, and family members if you can. Ask them if they are satisfied with the nursing home and its services.

Step 4: Choose the Nursing Home That Meets Your Needs

When you have all the information about the nursing homes you are interested in, talk with people who understand your personal and health care needs. This might include your family, friends, doctor, clergy, spiritual advisor, hospital discharge planner, or social worker. Trust your senses. If you didn't like what you saw on a visit, like if the facility wasn't clean or if you weren't comfortable talking to the nursing home staff, you may want to choose another nursing home.

For more information, send for, or download to your computer: The "Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home" prepared by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Or, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), or visit http://www.medicare.gov to get the most current information.

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Richard Jachetti
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